Patience giving way to progress in eastern New Orleans

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 26, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 26 at 7:39 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

NEW ORLEANS -- Progress is not hard to spot east of the Industrial Canal in New Orleans. 

Construction crews are moving dirt at the site of a new $100-million hospital on Read Boulevard.   Once empty strip malls are now home to many new businesses. And, Wal-Mart is returning to a new location at I-10 and Bullard Avenue.

"You know if you don't have a Wal-Mart, you're nobody," said developer Wade Verges.

Verges is the largest private property owner in the east with more than a half-million square feet of retail and office space.

He says the construction boom is good to see, considering some politicians had written off the east after Hurricane Katrina.

"I was told by (former mayor) Ray Nagin, in his private headquarters in the CBD of New Orleans, one week after Katrina not to go back and attempt to rebuild my properties in eastern New Orleans because the east was going to be bought out," said Verges.

Another sign of progress, just on the other side of the canal, Delgado's Sidney Collier Technical College will soon rise from Katrina's floodwaters on Louisa Street.

Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal was there to break ground on a brand new campus.

"You know not too long ago, if we'd have stood right here, you would have seen a completely different picture," said Jindal. "Where we once had a campus that educated over 1,000 students, instead you'd see what was left of a campus forced to shut its doors thanks to the winds and flood waters of Hurricane Katrina."

Local leaders say there's a new vibe in the east.

"There's a lot of things that we still need to try and do and we can do better and we can do quicker, but to say we're not making progress just simply wouldn't be true," said Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans. "The same things that we've been talking about for the last year or so is finally coming to fruition and with people actually seeing somethings happening, you see more hope in this community."

"It's been a long time and at times very frustrating of course and it has its challenges, but I think the hope is here and it's bright, the future is bright and we're ready for business," said Tangee Wall from Friends of Joe Brown Park.

With every new school, every new home, every new store, the eastern side of New Orleans gets a little closer to making it's long awaited comeback.

"When you drive by properties and they're 100 percent occupied, the whole area looks successful and that's where it is right now," said Verges. "Some may say it's got a long way to go, but if you don't ever start, you're never going to get there."    

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